Meanwhile, the field of media anthropology evidences the modes by which young people throughout the Global South conduct media worlds of their own through direct and off-label uses of these selfsame digital technologies, both in conversation and in conflict with discourses and resources from the West. These alternate modes of digital “self-writing” (Mbembe) offer programs by which young African people cultivate a context of hope: one often confluent with the contemporary global lexica of mediatized self-promotion and hip-hop cosmopolitanism.
— Ali Colleen Neff, AAA Round Table, 2014

Professional Colloquia, Conferences, Lectures

Peer-Reviewed Conference Papers and Presentations:

  • Leaders of the New School: Applying a Hip-Hop Studies Paradigm to the First Year Experience.” With Craig E. Arthur and Anthony Kwame Harrison, Conference on Higher Education Pedagogy, Virginia Tech, Feb 2015 (under review 9/13). 
  • “Conflicted Fantasies: Anthropology and African Media Cultures in the Digital Age.” Round table (organizer), American Anthropological Association, Washington, D.C., Nov 2014. 
  • “The Sounds of Sal Tlay Ka Siti: Alex Boyé’s “Africanized” Covers and Mormon Racial Dynamics,” co-authored with Jeremy Grimshaw, Society for Ethnomusicology, Pittsburgh, PA, November 2014.
  • “Reverberation I.” (Film showing) Ecomusics and Ecomusicologies 2014: Dialogues. UNC-Asheville, NC, October 2014.
  • “Selfie Harm: Teenage Girls’ Practices of Digital Inscription.” American Studies Association, Los Angeles, Nov 2014.
  • “The Scramble for Black Sound, Mobilizing Postcoloniality from the Global Sonic Sweatshop.” EMP Pop Music Studies Conference, Seattle, Apr 2014.
  • “Madame Liquidator: The Musical Mainstream and Feminine Flow.” IASPM Conference, Chapel Hill, Mar 2014.
  • “Voicing the Domestic: Senegalese Sufi Women’s Musical Practice, Feminine Interior Worlds, And Possibilities for Ethnographic Listening.” American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Chicago, November 2013.
  • “Reverberation I: Sound Ecology and Senegalese Sufism.” Society for Ethnomusicology (talk), Indianapolis, Nov 2013.
  • “Reverberation I.” American Musicological Society (film showing), Pittsburgh, Nov 2013.
  • “Ego Trips and Fast Yachts: The Transatlantic Hip-Hop Aesthetic.” IASPM Conference, Austin, TX, April 2013.
  • “Generation Fly-to-Fly: A Politics of Futurity, Postcolonial Sounding, and Women’s Musical Poetics in Contemporary Dakar, Senegal.” American Anthropological Association annual meeting,, San Francisco, November 2012.
  • “The Question Remains: Toward a Culture-Emergent Hip-Hop Studies.” IASPM/EMP Conference, New York, April 2012.
  • “Bodies In Sound: The Affective Dimensions of Sufi Vocal Practice in Senegal.” American Anthropological Association annual meeting, Montreal, November 2011.
  • “Get Stupid, Go Dumb!”: The “Bad Voice” of the Bay Area Hyphy Movement.” EMP Pop Music Studies Conference, Apr ‘09. 
  • “Get Hyphy: Embodied Musicking and Cultural Studies” National Communication Association Annual Meeting, Nov 2009. 
  • “Raising the Mannish Boy: Muddy Waters in the Year of the Emmett Till Murder.” Crossroads Cultural Studies Conference. Kingston, Jamaica, July 2008.
  • “Bigger, Banner, Badman: Conjuring the Trickster in the Church of Crunk.” International Association for the Study of Popular Music Conference. Iowa City, IA, March 2008. 
  • “Bass is the Place: Three 6 Mafia, Regional Aesthetics, and the Politics of Minstrelsy.” EMP Pop Music Studies Conference, Seattle, WA, April 2008.
  • “Home of the Double-Headed Eagle” American Folklore Society Meeting, Louisville, KY, October 2008.
  • “Bigger, Banner, Badman: Conjuring the Trickster in the Church of Crunk.” EMP Pop Music Studies Conference. Experience Music Project, Seattle, WA, April 2007. 
  • “Let the World Listen Right.” American Folklore Society Meeting, Milwaukee, October 2006.
  • “True Blues Ain’t No New News: Tuning in to Folk Freestyle Hip-Hop at the Crossroads of the Contemporary Mississippi Delta” EMP Pop Music Studies Conference. Experience Music Project, Seattle, April 2006.
  • “Let the World Listen Right.” Delta Blues Symposium. Arkansas State University, Jonesboro, Arkansas, February 2006. 
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  • Invited Lectures, Panels and Academic Colloquia (Selected):

  • “Transatlantic Surfboard: Mami Wata and the Siren Songs of Pop.” Virginia Tech, Africana Studies, October 2014.
  • “Planet of Sound: Digital Media and the Senegalese Sufi Diaspora.” The College of William and Mary, Anthropology, April 2013.
  • “Things that Cannot be Said: Gender and Women’s Studies Symposium Keynote Address.” Rider University, April 2013. 
  • “Passages: Mobilizing Transatlantic Hip-Hop in the Global South.” UNC Global South Conference. Invited, Feb. 2013.
  • “‘I am a Woman who Calls Allah’s Name: The Feminine Voices of Senegalese Sufism.” Islam in Global Context Speaker’s Series, UNC. Invited, November 2012.
  • “Ethnography, Women’s Voicing, and Black Atlantic Futurity.” Visiting Scholar, AAAS dept., Virginia Tech, April 2012.
  • “Lees Waxul (Things that cannot be said): Senegalese Women’s Musical Voice.” Visiting Scholar, The College of William and Mary, Music Dept, Williamsburg, VA, February 2012.
  • “Round Table: Exile, Race and the American South.” Colloquium on “The Loving Story,” CSAS, UNC, March 2012.
  • Panelist, “Blood Knot/Poetic Portraits of a Revolution.” Carrboro Arts Center, March 2012.
  • Panelist, “Global Media and/as Local Politics: Reconfigurations of the Mediatized ‘Muslim World.’” UNC, January 2012.
  • “New Blues: Emerging Women’s Poetics in Mississippi and Senegal.” Duke/UNC Poetics Conference. Invited, Sept 2011. 
  • “’Wooyo!’ (Sing!): Emergent Women’s Popular Music in Urban Senegal.” UNC Comm. Studies Colloquium, November 2009.
  • “New Directions in Ethnography and Music.” Duke University Musicology, April 2009.
  • “Let the World Listen Right.” UNC Southern Folklife Speaker’s Series (Invited) Wilson Library Pleasants Room, October 2008.
  • Panelist, Perspectives in Hip-Hop Studies. Duke African and African American Studies. Invited, October 2008.
  • Panelist, “Rebirth of a Nation.” University of North Carolina English Dept., February 2008. 
  • “On Blues Ethnography.” William R. Ferris Film Festival. UNC Comm Studies, September 2007.
  • “Let the World Listen Right.” Delta Hip-Hop Conference. Delta State University, Cleveland, MS. Invited lecturer, March 2006.
  • “Material Mississippi.” CSAS Southern Research Circle Colloquium. Invited, November 2007.
  • “Mississippi Delta Hip-Hop.” CSAS Southern Research Circle Colloquium. Invited, November 2006.
  • “Perspectives of a Researcher.” Willamette University. Symposium. Visiting Scholar, October 2006.
  • “New Perspectives on the ‘Dirty South.’” UNC Centering the South Speakers’ Series, Invited, October 2005. 

Conflicted Fantasies: Anthropology and African Media Cultures in the Digital Age

In the high-contrast visibility of the Web 2.0 and the sounds of a new digital cosmopolitanism enabled by electronic sampling, Africanness holds a special currency to emerging global media. Online documentaries, travel series, viral nonprofit campaigns and street style blogs have come in recent years to trade in cinematic representations of African and Afrodiasporic pathos, dependence, and exuberance. This spectacular media-making relies on pseudo-ethnographic modes of immersion, participant-observation, special access, and interlocution to obscure its commercial, promotional and political underpinnings. In fact, the work of anthropologists is often indistinguishable from these lay projects online without careful investigation. 

These ethnographic fantasies of imagined Africanness are further shaped by a neoliberal dynamic of “click-activism” by which the subjects of these representations are rescued by the commercial ad revenue generated by online viewership. The impact of digital media on global perceptions of African politics has also contributed to a sharp rise in American State-Department programs (particularly hip-hop and social media projects) designed to sway global attitudes toward US intervention into African culture and politics. 

Meanwhile, the field of media anthropology evidences the modes by which young people throughout the Global South conduct media worlds of their own through direct and off-label uses of these selfsame digital technologies, both in conversation and in conflict with discourses and resources from the West. These alternate modes of digital “self-writing” (Mbembe) offer programs by which young African people cultivate a context of hope: one often confluent with the contemporary global lexica of mediatized self-promotion and hip-hop cosmopolitanism.

This round table speaks, in part, to the “conflicted fantasies” (Weiss) that texture the world of digital Africanness, and to the stylistic formations that erupt at these sites of struggle. As Africanist anthropologists, filmmakers, global copyright scholars, critics and practitioners with a longview toward the work of representational disempowerment, we call attention to the enmeshment of anthropological methodologies and readymade media representations across the Western digital landscape, and ask how we might differentiate and amplify the methodological rigor of anthropological work on African cultural practices in an age of unprecedented broad access to representational media.

Drawing from the possibilities collaborative ethnography, media anthropology, and digital representation entail, we seek a new model for the global circulation of Third World artists. Potential vehicles for this intervention in modes of African (mis)representation include de-colonial copyright practices, affordable access to social media and video editing software, the provision of self-sufficient recording equipment and media labs to Third World artists, and new forms of access to artists’ visas. Most importantly, we ask how anthropologists can help to mobilize new forms of self-representation--and of digital anthropology--in a surprisingly uneven digital media landscape.

This round table will use available a/v to feature contemporary examples of commercial--but “documentary”-style--representations of African and Afrodiasporic (particularly Caribbean) youth cultures, as well as the academic/ethnographic projects from which they draw, and analogous projects in global self-representation by African you themselves. Senegalese woman hip-hop artist Toussa Senerap will join the round table live from her own women’s recording studio in Dakar to speak about her campaign for young African artists.